Anthropomorphism and Science Experiments

Anthropomorphism is a term that I only recently learnt but it is something I have been practicing all my life. Anthropomorphism is; the attribution of human form or behaviour to a deity, animal, etc. In this instance we are talking specifically about humanising animals and whether this is a positive or negative thing.

Since I was born I have always had dogs in my life and am currently living with two beautiful Lassie dogs. As a child it is difficult not to humanise everything, I gave names to rocks and shells, thought the clouds were spying down on us and that everything was alive and the same as us. Looking into my dog’s eyes I would tell her everything and was convinced she could understand me, I wanted her to eat at the table with us and do everything with me because I thought she had exactly the same needs and wants as I did. While humanising animals isn’t always accurate it does make it easier for us as humans to develop empathy and love towards animals as it is what we feel we understand and are comfortable with. Empathy towards other living things is important and can help prevent horrible things like this from happening.

Anthropomorphism was used very well within the documentary ‘Blackfish‘, there are many instances where this is used but one that stood out for me was when we see the baby orcars getting captured in the wild and one of the men working on the boat compares this to kidnapping a baby from their mother. This human comparison makes it very easy for the viewer to empathise and feel sadness for the orcas which is partly what made this such a successful documentary.

However anthropomorphism does not always have positive outcomes. Since Darwin’s theory of evolution humans have been obsessed with apes and their similarities with humans, in the early 1900’s there was a great deal of scientific research put into teaching chimpanzees to talk, and as we can now imagine, this was a gigantic failure. The next step for scientists was to attempt to teach sign language, many apes were used in sign language projects but in the 1970’s one chimp named Nim became part of a much bigger experiment. While Nim was to learn sign language he was to do so while growing up in a human family.



Herb Terrace, a psychology professor at Columbia, took the two week old Nim from his mother and gave him to a family with three children in Manhattan, New York. Nim grew up exactly as the other children in the family, he wore clothes, had his own room, he was even breastfeed by his human ‘mother’ and was home schooled in sign language while the other children were out at school. This is an extreme version of anthropomorphism, Terrace was convinced that because apes are so biologically similar to humans that they must want and need the same things as us, that Nim was so close to human he should be able to grow up in the same environment as one. But as Nim grew older he became more aggressive and difficult to handle, biting his human family and teachers. He was then passed around to many different carers and eventually sold when the sign language experiment was deemed a failure and unfortunately spent the rest of his life moving around different cages. After the experiment Nim remained aggressive and had difficulty socialising with other chimps. Had it not been for the humanisation of chimps Nim may not have had as many difficulties as he had and he would have certainly had a more natural life in the wild.

Another example of science meeting anthropomorphism is the case of Peter the dolphin. In 1964 John C. Lilly saw the intelligence that dolphins had and this lead him to associating them too closely with humans. He converted a house so the interior was liveable for both a human and dolphin and thus began the two year experiment of a women living with a dolphin and attempting to teach it to speak or make “human-like sounds”. This experiment was a colossal failure in too many ways, Peter started getting sexual with his live-in trainer and this completely overshadowed anything else within the experiment, Lilly also began experimenting with Peter and LSD with very underwhelming results. But above all, the wants and needs of the dolphin were completely ignored, anthropomorphism led to thinking that a dolphin would be happy living in a house and having human companionship because that’s what us humans want. Peter was kept in a small unnatural environment and was apart of drug experiments, in today’s society this could easily be viewed as animal cruelty.


So while anthropomorphism can help us develop empathy and love towards animals it can also have negative effects on the animals if we take what are seen as human qualities too far. Nim and Peter became so humanised that it became cruel and unnatural to the animal. We need to keep in mind what is natural and healthy for the animal, not what is healthy for us humans.




Opportunities and Mentors

If your dream job is in the film industry it can be very intimidating, we are warned by friends and family about how difficult it is get into the industry, or any creative industry, but by taking it one step at a time, creating networks and taking advantage of opportunities you could one day be working on your dream job.

Sometimes in order to achieve this dream you have to start from the bottom, this could mean doing an unpaid internship, being a film extra, working on the crew or being an assistant to someone working within the film industry. With a quick search you can find many different film internships and extra jobs. If you are willing to put in the time and effort this can be a great way to get your foot in the door and potentially create networks and opportunities, at the very least it’s great experience to have on the resume.


Mentors can also play a very important role in helping achieving your dream and reaching your full potential. For me one of my mentors is my current boss who is very supportive and has given me many different opportunities within the workplace to practice and learn aspects within my practice. While this may not be work specifically within the film industry my boss was aware of my background in media and when opportunities arose within the faculty she was quick to push me in the right direction. My boss is very kind and supportive and this has really allowed me to have a confidence in my work that I never previously had, she has also put me in situations where I have the opportunity to learn which has helped me grow in my practice. (I wrote previously about my work experiences here.)

It’s not always an easy road to the top but when you are pursuing something that you are truly passionate about it can be worth putting in the time and effort. But we don’t have to take this trip alone, seeking help, support and advice from a mentor can help build confidence, opportunities and push us in the right direction. Film internship job offers in sydney, nsw – Trovit. [online] Available at:,-nsw [Accessed 22 Mar. 2017]. Extra Advertising, Arts & Media, Performing Arts Jobs in All Australia – SEEK. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 Mar. 2017].


My Hero – Kevin Smith

I enjoy many aspects in film making and have had the opportunity to experiences many different pieces in the process and I believe that being involved in various parts of the film process can help a vision become much clearer, this is partly why Kevin Smith is one of my heroes.

Kevin Smith attended film school in Vancouver but dropped out to save money and make his first film Clerks 1994 and was credited as director, writer, actor, producer and film editor. This could be because of Smith’s incredibly small budget (mostly out of his parents pockets) but he has continued this pattern of taking on multiple roles throughout the majority of his career. Being involved in different aspects of film making has made it possible for Smith to create movies in his own original vision and have more control over the final product.

Smith’s multiple roles are not the only reason he is one of my heroes, as mentioned above Smith began his first film on a tiny budget which consisted of his and his family’s savings. A small budget is something every beginner film maker will have and Smith became an inspiration with his resourcefulness. He enlisted his family and friends for the cast and crew, filmed in his current workplace (a small convenience store) and took on multiple roles within filming.

Being a film school dropout Smith showed us, and tells us in many of his podcasts, that if you’re passionate about what you do and you work hard anyone can pick up a camera and make a film, especially in our day and age with cheaper camera’s and video cameras on phones. Inspiring others and encouraging people to go after what they love in one of Smith’s core values and you can see this every time he speaks to any audience. His love for inspiring people and opening up about his experiences is a major part of why he is one of my heroes.

Smith has also expanded into other media founding his podcast company SModcast in 2010, once again enlisted in the help of his friends and currently has 16 running podcasts as well as many others over the years. This bold step in pursuing a completely different career in media, while still continuing to make films, is another reason why Smith is such a hero and inspiration as I am very interested in all media as well as film making.

Overall Smith is one of my favourite filmmakers, not only for his final product but for his journey into and through the industry as well as his constant inspiration and encouragement towards young and inexperienced filmmakers.


Sisley, D. (2015). Kevin Smith shares Clerks budget to inspire young filmmakers. [Blog] Dazed. Available at: [Accessed 16 Mar. 2017].

SModcast. (2010). The Smodcast Podcast. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Mar. 2017].

Clerks (1994). [online] IMDb. Available at: [Accessed 15 Mar. 2017].

YouTube, (2009). Kevin Smith Part 2: Writing & Filmmaking. [image] Available at: [Accessed 16 Mar. 2017].

Viewing Suffering in the Media

Sometimes the media publishes photographs that shock the world and grab everybody’s attention, sometimes these may include photographs of people in horrifying situations or people who have died. Should we as a people be publishing and viewing photos like these? If we don’t publish them are we ignoring or hiding them? Does viewing photographs of individual people make us care more about a situation effecting many?
One photograph that quite recently went viral was of Alan Kurdi, a Syrian refugee who was fleeing the country. Worldwide people were seeing the body of this little boy who had washed up on the Turkish shore, for many it was this photo that made them aware of the Syrian refugees. Awareness of a situation is important in itself, this photograph spiked protests and discussions on the situation, while if this photo was never published these positive steps might have never happened with less people were aware of the situation.
What this photograph was able to do was put an individual face on a horrible situation that was effecting many. When you hear about the Syrian refugees it is difficult for us as individuals to apply empathy to a mass group of people we do not know. Mary-Catherine Harrison discusses this in her book, ‘Sentimental Realism: Poverty and the Ethics of Empathy, 1832–1867‘,
“But Smith’s “man of humanity” suggests another emphatic limitation- the difficulty of feeling with large groups of people. Smith twice reiterates the massiveness of the disaster – “the ruin of a hundred million of his brethren,” “the destruction of that immense multitude” (106) – but it is the very massiveness diminishes the spectator’s response. Rather than his distress increasing in proportion to the magnitude of the loss, it seems instead to have an inverse relationship.”
However when we are able to take a situation that is affecting a large group of people and apply it to an individual or individuals we are able to feel this level of empathy that we would not normally feel towards large groups of people.
Another example of a large scaled catastrophe being brought down to the individual level was the conditions and treatment of POWs kept in Nazi concentration camps. While above I spoke about how one photo can change millions of perspectives I now want to talk about my own experience with applying empathy to a large group of people and viewing, potentially considered disturbing, photographs.
11 million people were killed during the Holocaust and millions more imprisoned in Nazi POW (Prisoner of War) camps. Last year I visited Auschwitz and Dachau and after seeing some of the things I saw my understanding of WWII changed forever. I walked through those concentration camps, listening to the stories and looking at so many photographs taken of POWs in poor conditions, and even some dead or being executed. I was only looking at individuals from that one camp that I was visiting, a tiny fraction of how many people were involved in this atrocity.
Photograph taken my Kristine Mugavin
Photograph taken my Kristine Mugavin
I can tell you that before I went to Auschwitz and Dachau it was difficult for me to comprehend the situation due to the vast number of people involved, I can’t tell you why, only that it is psychological, but after coming out of these places I was able to feel a type of empathy for these people I had never known and that I previously hadn’t felt. I had known of the horrible things that had happened but before seeing the impact on individual people I was unable to comprehend what millions of people had gone though, it was difficult to feel what you understand to be the appropriate emotions. But after seeing those photographs I had a completely different understanding and emotional reaction to these atrocities during WWII.
The reason I’m talking about empathy is because in order to create change we have to truly be able to care. If we as the public don’t care or if we ignore a situation nothing will change, and these photographs and stories of individuals allow us to feel the empathy we need in order to really truly care about a situation that is effecting millions of people we don’t personally know.
When it comes down to it it is an individuals decision whether or not to view photos such as these, but it is important to do a little research before labeling shocking photographs as inappropriate.
Withnall, A. (2015). Aylan Kurdi’s story: How a small Syrian child came to be washed up on a beach in Turkey. INDEPENDENT UK. [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 march. 2017]. (2016). History / Auschwitz-Birkenau. [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 March. 2017].

Kz Gedenkstaette Dachau. (2016). [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 March. 2017].

Harrison, M. (2008). Sentimental Realism: Poverty and the Ethics of Empathy, 1832–1867. University of Michigan: ProQuest, pp.120-130. Available at:,+1832–1867&ots=6swmCmqb3C&sig=xH2Cm3rKfqVa4-4w0WMkoKrE5pU#v=onepage&q=Sentimental%20Realism%3A%20Poverty%20and%20the%20Ethics%20of%20Empathy%2C%201832–1867&f=false [Accessed 14 March. 2017]. (n.d.). 11 Facts About the Holocaust | | Volunteer for Social Change. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 March. 2017].

Information from visiting Auschwitz and Dachau guided tours and information inside the structure.


The Self, Media and Technology

Are you one of the millions of people worldwide who wear your fitness wristband tracker everywhere? Do you track your sleep, food intake or even how many times you go to the bathroom? The quantified self phenomenon is becoming more and more popular as our technology makes tracking almost anything possible. For some this can be fun way to learn more about ourselves or improve upon bad habits, while for others it can become a dangerous obsession.


There are becoming more and more ways to track different aspects of our lives. One person who has taken full advantage of this tracking technology is Chris Dancy, also known as “the most connected man in the world“.           

Dancy had always been interested in data collecting, he originally started keeping diaries and a catalog of his collectibles. On his personal website Dancy has put a clear time-line that shows exactly how his self data collecting progressed over the years and in 2008 Dancy decided to use his love of data collection to improve his lifestyle. By keeping track of his calorie intake, his workouts and many other aspects of his life, Dancy was able to lose 100 pounds (45kg), quit smoking and was the healthiest he had ever been.

Data tracking
Dancy’s self-tracking
He is able to track moods, why he wants certain things, and even keep track of his personality, he is able to understand so much more about himself than the average person ever could. “By 2014 my data stories were combinations of photos, sound, movies and data.

Through data collecting he was see clear patterns in his day and eventually began to work out exactly what could make a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ day and was able to make himself overall happier by cutting out behaviors that could be linked to the bad days and emotions. By spotting patterns in his day Dancy was also able to create many ‘life hacks’; things that many of us would find extremely helpful in everyday life.

 “Some of my earliest life hacks involved simple relationships between the environment and my behavior.  I learned, for example:

1. How late I could have a drink without getting up to pee in the middle of the night.

2. How what I did on social media, and how I spent my time online, related to how much I did or didn’t exercise.

3. How the nutritional value of my food stacked up against the money I spent on that food and the time it took to acquire.” 

Dancy created thousands of these life hacks and while at a glance this looks like an awesome way to improve his life,  it soon became an obsession. Dancy’s “life became a continuous feedback loop of condition and response” and every aspect of his life became controlled by data. He was originally able to learn more about himself from data but it was soon flipped around and the data was used to ‘improve’ and change Dancy, eventually leading to an obsession of controlling and improving all aspects of his life.


Dancy’s tracking calendar


The ‘Mashable’ article makes it sound like Dancy is living the dream; he became healthier, he’s leading the way in self data collection and has more control than ever over his life. However everything is not as perfect as it seems, during an episode of Dark Net Dancy opened up about how his obsession with data collecting has made it difficult for him to maintain relationships, seeing people as groups of numbers and data rather the complex individuals that humans are. On his personal website Dancy also speaks of some of the negative effects his obsessive data collection, one example is what he refers to as data PTSD;

 “In 2016, I find that I experience a sort of “data PTSD” about the period from 2011 – 2014. I can only recall those years by looking them up in my archives and trying to understand who I was and how I was reacting.”

Viewing life through data and numbers can start to have an effect on the individual, data can become an obsession and it starts to become all that matters and the only thing the person can see. As shown above, Dancy does not recall the same way as many of us, while you and I may reflect upon the past by recalling certain events or people, Dancy is only able to recall by looking over his data and seeing in numbers who he was at that time.
Dancy accepts and speaks openly about both the positives and negatives of data collection. Through self data collection he is able to learn more about himself and believes that it can inspire positive change in people, however he does admit that this can lead to many different issues in life, some which are stated above. The amount of data Dancy collects in 2016 is almost incomprehensible and you can view some of this current data here.
While technology continues to evolve self data collection will become easier and practically anything will be able to collected and recored, we are already seeing this as a recent trend with things such as the fitness wristband tracker becoming increasingly popular. People will have to decide for themselves if this is something they want to partake in and whether it will have a positive or negative effect on their lives.
Dancy, C. (2016). [online] Chris Dancy. Available at: [Accessed 9 March. 2017].
Murphy Kelly, S. (2014). Meet the ‘Most Connected Man’ in the World. [Blog] Mashable Australia. Available at: [Accessed 10 March. 2017].
Dark Net Episode 2. (2016). United States of America: Showtime

My Practice

I have always been interested in film, growing up movies were a massive part of my family’s life and something we always loved to share and experience together. Films like Jurassic Park and Jaws captured my imagination and I was so jealous of the people who could make these worlds and stories come alive.

Coming into university and pursuing a Communications and Media degree I have had a few opportunities to dip my toes into the world of film making and contribute in different ways. I originally began photography work as it is a skill I am well practiced in. About four years ago I started working in the School of Nursing at the University of Wollongong doing administration but after getting to know some people I soon got the opportunity to photograph some research workshops. This then lead to other photography jobs within the facility such as graduation photos and the organisation of professional portraits.

My job has also allowed me to work behind the scenes of a tutorial video developed to help nurses use a tool designed by the university. This gave me the opportunity to work within a small film crew where I helped with organisation, planning, lighting and structure of the video. While I did not film anything for the tutorial the camera operators were kind enough to show me the basics of working behind the camera and tips on placement within the frame. Through this experience I was able to get a broad view of some of the tasks involved with being in a film crew, and gave me the confidence to continue perusing this practice.


Last year my friend gave me the opportunity to work on a short film for his final year in university. I was involved from the beginning of the process and was allowed to participate in many different aspects of filming as well as learning many new skills. My classmate and I had always bonded over horror films so when he decided to make a horror film I was able to contribute to the story and storyboards which is something I had never done before. I was tasked with assistant director and producer roles which I really enjoyed as it allowed me to help make decisions that impacted the final product.

While I have yet been unable to settle on a specific practice I have had the opportunity to experience and participate in many different aspects of film and photography. I have also established many different skills in organisation, planning, film structure, directing, producing and overall a greater understanding of working behind the scenes of films.